The Last of the Mohicans
In James Fenimore Coopers’ book, The Last of the Mohicans, we find a classic story set in the 1700’s. During this time, the war between the French and English is raging, complicated by an additional contention between the Mohican Indians and the Huron Indians. The location is in the area of Lake George in the Hudson Valley,somewhere between New York and Canada. The theme of this book is a conflict
between civilization and savagery, each being personified in both the whites, the Indians, and in nature itself.
The author seems to be showing the truth of human nature: that there is a
fine line between acting in a civilized manner and giving in to the primitive urge to totally destroy other human beings. The ruggedness of the region provided a
similar conflict with man. At times, it was beautiful,
sheltering, protecting, and nourishing the characters with food and water.
At other times, it was obviously wild and untamed bringing danger and
aiding in destruction.
There were many prominent characters in the book. These include
Chingachgook and his son, Uncas, who are the last remaining Mohicans and
the protagonists of the story. Another was Hawk-eye, who is a white man
raised from birth by Chingachgook. Major Duncan Hayward is an officer with
the English military who is assigned to transport two sisters from Fort Edward to their father at Fort William Henry. The antagonist, or dominant enemy, of the story was
Magua, a Huron Indian who was a leader of his people and was driven by the traditional savagery of his tribe.
The story begins with Major Hayward preparing to carry out his orders to transport Alice and Cora Monroe to their father, General Monroe, at Fort William Henry. In order to make the journey safely he hired a guide familiar with the area to lead the party through the treacherous territory. Unknown to him, his guide, Mage, had a plan to entrap them by leading them to the Huron’s where they would surely be killed. As they pressed on through thick forests and deep rivers, they came upon a psalmist named David Gumet sitting beside the path. Gumet was a pleasant person and a gifted singer who had lost his horse and his provisions. They encouraged him to join them for his own safety. Shortly down the path, the Mohicans ambushed them with the goal of exposing Magua’s mission. Magua escaped with the aid of the forest and the Mohicans were able to explain his intentions to the group. They realized night was falling and they made their way to a cave to obtain shelter.
At daybreak, a loud screaming as Magua awakened the party and a band of Huron Indians surprised them with an attack. Major Heyward, David, Cora, and Alice where captured by the Hurons and carried off to their village. Upon their arrival, the captives were each tied to a pine tree where they awaited Magua’s decision on the torture that they should receive. Just as Magua was about to strike Major Heyward, shots were heard ringing from the thick forest. Hawk-eye, Chingachgook, and Uncas had come to their rescue. The three brave friends charged the Huron village causing confusion and blood shed. Magua escaped by fleeing into the forest. After rescuing Major Heyward, David, and the two sisters, Uncas encouraged them to flee to the fort before Magua and his braves regrouped and attacked again. They set off toward the fort being led by the Mohicans. When they approached the fort they realized that the French army was attacking it. Fighting along with the French were the brutal and savage Hurons, whom the French had befriended.
Hayward and his party were able to make their way inside the fort where General Monro explained that the French army had increased in numbers and strength. After much debate, the English come up with a plan to surrender the fort and return to Fort Edward. Hawk-eye, Chingachgook, and Uncas, feeling very attached to the English after all they have been through, agreed to lead the group to the fort, with a promise from the French that they will not harm any of the men or families. Chingachgook, Uncas, and Major Heyward brought up the rear.
As the group entered the forest, Magua and his army of Hurons ambushed the civilians, killing everyone they could get their hands on. Magua fled to the deep part of the woods taking the sisters as hostages. Hawk-eye and Uncas return to Major Heyward and General Monro knowing they would need more men. They developed a plan to ambush Magua from two sides, while Chingachgook stayed with General Monro, David, and the other few survivors. As the two parties set out, the Hurons had a trap waiting for them in the forest. Uncas and Hawk-eye knew something was not right and the Hurons attacked with full fury. At the same time Major Heyward, taking a different route, found Alice alive and well and had learned that Cora was still with Magua. Major Heyward sent Alice back to her father with three of his men. He and the rest of the men continued on, only to stumble upon the battle that Uncas and Hawk-eye where fighting against the Hurons.
Uncas noticed Magua running away from the battle and into the mountains pulling Cora along with him. Uncas followed him quietly so as not to be seen or heard. Hawk-eye noticed Uncas leaving and followed him. Uncas and Hawk-eye were able to corner him at the top of the mountain. Magua threatened to kill the girl. While Hawk-eye bargained with Magua, Uncas tried to sneak up on him. Magua saw him and killed Cora. Uncas leaped on
Magua trying to pull him down, but Magua stabbed Uncas multiple times killing him. Hawk-eye took his gun and shot Magua, causing him to fall down the steep mountain cliff to his death. After joining back together for a ceremony, the story comes to an abrupt end as they all went their separate ways.
Overall, the book was enjoyable to read because there was constant adventure and it was full of surprises. Cooper seemed to highlight the strength of the friendships between the characters throughout the book and how they were able to overcome adversity. The only Christian character in the story was David Gumet, who played a minor part. The story portrayed a definite secular worldview, particularly with the constant violence and the
spiritual practices of the Indians. The wording was, at times, difficult toread and the author had a tendency to jump back-and-forth between characters and situations. Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to others because it was adventurous and not boring. I found it difficult to put down once I started reading it.